Friday, 7 April 2017

The metaphysics of everyday life, the universe and everything - by Bruce G Charlton

The vital importance of metaphysics in everyday Life can be seen by considering a typical walk in the country - first from the perspective of mainstream modern metaphysics, then from how things ought to be.

How modern metaphysics demeans life

Imagine walking on a beautiful day through beautiful countryside - and how everything that is experienced is undermined by our typical modern metaphysical assumptions...

The sky is a glorious, electric blue... and I feel elated; until I reflect that this apparent blueness is some kind of perceptual illusion caused by the interaction of the earth's atmosphere with light from the sun.

The sun is warm, and very air feels soft between my fingers and I am at peace... until I reflect that 'really' the sun is merely a ball of incandescent gas, of terrifying temperature; and the softness of the air merely an effect of some specific combination of moisture and temperature acting on the nerve endings of my skin.

I feel filled with well being... until I recognise that this must merely be due to some combination of neurotransmitters and hormones, a product of ancestral evolution which was shaped merely by traits that led to reproductive success.

That magnificent beech tree, with its translucent green leaves outlined against the blue of the sky, seems like a wise companion to this walk... until I reflect that it is just a plant with no feelings; and the leaves are only that colour due to the chlorophyll which is used in photosynthesis.

That sandstone boulder has a remarkable shape, which seems significant... until I reflect that it is just a dead lump of inert unconscious matter - shaped randomly by the forces of wind and water...

You get the idea? Modern metaphysics works to destroy the validity and significance of our best and highest moments - reducing them to contingent, random or merely-causal effects; and reducing our own responses to similarly meaningless factors.

Our metaphysics is that everything that happens is either merely the inevitable cause of something equally meaningless that happened before; or some random and pointless event. The ideas of meaning, purpose and the notion that any of this has anything significant to do with me and my hopes is written off as a delusion - a delusion that may be explained only in similarly meaningless terms.

But suppose we had a better metaphysics? How might things look then?

A better metaphysics

I walk in the country and I know that everything I perceive, everything I think, has meaning - even when I do not know what that meaning is exactly; even when I cannot understand it ever - I know that there is meaning.

I know that the meaning has to do with a divine purpose - that this world around me is in fact a creation - not just a collection of arbitrary stuff.

I know that the divine purpose has the unity which comes from creation being the product of a personal God - what is more, a God like myself, a God of whom I am a child.

And that, because I am a child of God; I too share in divinity; and indeed share in some knowledge of God's nature and purposes - I know that I can know enough of these matters such that I can lead my life well.

What, then, of all the specifics I have mentioned above - sky, sun, warm air, physical sensations, tree and rock? I know that they have meaning, purpose and relevance... but what, exactly?

Well, I don't necessarily know their individual meaning and purposes, and especially I don't know exactly. But I do know in a general sense that they are all alive in some shape or form; all conscious in some way and degree; and that they are all potentially beings with whom I can have a personal relationship of some kind.

I know this because they are all creations; and all of creation has to do with myself specifically, as one of God's children generally - our fates are interwoven.

Instead of nothing having any meaning or purpose - everything has meaning and purpose and is in communication and in relation... even though this is almost-wholly mysterious I know this is true, and that specific knowledge on such matters is possible, at some point or in some circumstances nothing meaningful is unknowable; everything is potentially knowable, experience-able.

That - then - is the difference metaphysics can make: all the difference in the world.

One of the blockages to metaphysical renewal is that people tend to want the wrong thing.

Plenty of folk dislike the deadness and meaninglessness and alienation imposed by the modern metaphysics - but what they instead want is a visionary world in which they see things like spirits, elves and auras; hear things like voices and celestial or fay music...

Alienated modern people want to be overwhelmed by meanings and beauties - to have all their objections swept aside by the senses - because (the idea goes) seeing is believing - and if not seeing then at least hearing.

But that vision of the world is behind us, and cannot be restored except in dreams, intoxication or psychosis - experiences which are seldom pleasant and never functional. And if discovering meaning, purpose and relation was as easy as that - it would already have happened.

What, then, awaits - what are we aiming for?

The result of a new metaphysics is apparent at the levels of thinking and knowing... In effect, we perceive the same things, but interpret them differently; or, we have the same sensations but notice and pay attention to very different aspects. We have the same spontaneous thoughts, but there is a large difference in which ones we take seriously and which ones we reject.

The fact is that what we suppose to be 'objective' sensations and perceptions are grossly over-rated and misunderstood by the mainstream modern metaphysics. We already know, from science as well as our own experiences, that what is perceived depends on our own attitudes and preconceptions - yet we persist in behaving as if sensations are the only reality.

Most modern people are made impatient, bored or annoyed by metaphysics - they prefer 'hard facts' and 'evidence' and 'reality' - even though anyone who thinks consecutively for five minutes knows that all of these depend upon the underlying and structuring assumptions - tat is, on metaphysics.

So, the answer - what we seek - is actually very simple indeed; yet opposed by a lifetime of bad habits and the falsehood is enforced by the vast and all-pervading, immersive mass of modern culture: the mass media, bureaucracy; and most of art, science, literature... even poetry.

We need a change of mind, a change of assumptions, a change of interpretations. Yet these interpretations are not arbitrary, nor are they susceptible to wishful thinking - to avoid alienation and despair we cannot instead just interpret the world however we want-to, the way that 'makes us happy' because then we would know we were trying to fool ourselves, and it wouldn't work...

Metaphysical change only works when we regard it as real - and that involves taking another step back. .

What are we aiming at in life? What is our destiny?

Well, part of it is freedom, which implies agency: acting from our-selves, and more exactly from our true selves rather than from false, superficial or merely habitual selves.

This is important, because it rules out a common fantasy - and a fantasy common to both secular and religious people who both often yearn to be overwhelmed, to passively be swept-up by life and bundled along in a state of fulfilment; without need (or possibility) of freedom, or of conscious agency. Such a situation as may be recalled from a (happy) childhood, or imagined for an earlier and simpler state of culture.

Yet this is both impossible and undesirable. Impossible because the dream has been there for generations, probably for centuries - and we are no further toward achieving it, although it would apparently be quite simple to do so. Undesirable because to return to full passivity in practice means intoxication or psychosis - and anything short of full passivity entails an awareness of falseness.

And undesirable too because of our destiny... but of course, that is something which each must ascertain for himself or herself.

But if we are not meant to be passive, and are instead meant to be active in living by agency and in freedom - it is important to recognise that this is primarily achieved in thinking. We may be, at times and in some situations, wholly-free in our thinking in a way that does not apply to our actions.

Actions are always constrained - but thinking may be free.

This primacy of thinking is hard for us to grasp and take seriously - but it seems to be correct. It is, however, not easy to do often or for sustained periods. Because freedom of thinking is only possible when we are thinking with our real, true and divine self - and that happens less nowadays than at any time in human history.

Why less now? Because of our wrong metaphysics and because of the unprecedented levels of mind-control, by which our thinking becomes merely part of vast and pervasive processing systems such as the mass media and the interlinked bureaucracies - our modern minds are often little more than conduits for externally-generated material...

So, thinking from the real self is a considerable challenge - yet if we do not do it, then we are not free - we are merely caused.

Plenty of people in the world - indeed, most people in the world, and virtually everyone who ever lived until the past several generations - believed in spirits; and indeed they believed in deity.

But, here and now things are more constrained. For one who believes in the reality and necessity of a spiritual destiny of Man and of each individual man and woman (you and me included) there is a necessary order in which we must attain knowledge; and this knowledge must be by personal revelation - by individual conviction.

Because, following on many decades of accelerating subversion and destruction of traditional, unreflective, 'automatic' spirituality - modern spirituality must be conscious, explicit and indeed personal, individual; addressed at the free agent which is our truest self.

So, in modern conditions we are inculcated with unbelief - and as a consequnce we are insane, lost and alienated; and this must be re-built, step-wise - since we cannot do everything all at once.

We must rebuild our fundamental, metaphysical assumptions - rebuild from foundations upward. 

The foundation is to begin with deity, with God - that reality is is neither random nor are we merely a product of rigid causes... we each need to know that reality is created, hence has meaning and purpose. This must be the first revelation, our first personal conviction.

Then we need to know that this deity is God, that he is a person, that we are children of God - and therefore each of us may individually have direct knowledge of God (because we are like him; being offspring, we are of the same ultimate nature).

The revelation of Christ is necessary if we are to know that our future is one of meaningful purpose, genuine relationship and ultimate happiness; because it is Christ's gift to provide us with eternal life and the possibility of spiritual development after death.

(Without Christ, our fate is, at bottom, a bleak one - and this was easily understood 2000 years ago. The question then was whether the claims of Jesus were true - if they were true, then to 'believe in' then was 'a no brainer' assuming that happiness was wanted. Nowadays, largely because of atheism - that is, unbelief in deity and creation - people reject Christianity because it often interferes with optimising short term happiness in mortal life. However, we cannot believe in Christ by simple tradition and common sense - now we must have a solid, personal revelation of his truth.)

And only after the convictions of God and Christ are in-place, can we truly believe (that is actually live-by) the reality of the spiritual world - the Holy Ghost, as it were.

Here and now, our understanding of a revelation of the reality of the spiritual world can only be in the context or framework of God and Christ.

At this point - one is fully a Christian. 

What then of a church?

Clearly, it is possible to be a Christian without believeing in the claims of any particular Church - but there are potentially (although not necessarily in practice) advantages to some Christian Churches - and it is likely that most Christians will at least explore the claims of the churches, of the various Christian denominations...

Each church asks different things before acknowledging belief - and many have different layers or levels of committment. But, since Christianity is ultimately a matter of the heart, the first step is again a personal revelation - that is, one may have a personal revelation of the truth of a particular church.

Only if this happens there is a further choice of whether to seek to join that church of which one has a personal revelation.

Thus - the process of being a Christian under modern conditions is much more individual and multi-layered than it used to be; it is much more conscious, explicit and a consequence of deliberate effort.

This is harder work and has more pitfalls than things used to be - but on the other hand, that is how things are - and we simply have-to work with it.

Also, such results are very solid at a personal level; and the nature of this kind of individually-validated faith is precisely what is required to be Christian in these end times or latter days; where we cannot any longer depend on social and institutional support.

(Rather; modern society and institutions - including most self-identified 'Christian' churches - are overwhelmingly against Goodness, against truth, and against us - and indeed, propagate an inverted various deadly brews of atheism, Christ-denial, and unspiritual materialism.)

Simplicity of explaations

This is a view I have always held about science - that the best explanations are so simple that there is the least danger of us accepting them as literal truth. By contrast complex explanations are wrong but more likely to mislead us into supposing that they are complete... having struggled to understand and remembering them, we may develop an excessive devotion to their literal truthfulness.

All explanations are partial - the best explanations are valid but imprecise: a blurred picture, as it were. The blurriness ought to be a constant reminder that the image is not the thing itself.

But most explanations are partial and biased and highly precise - such as the statistical models and measurements so beloved by bureaucrats and pseudo-scientists. They are like tiny, sharp pictures of tiny, broken pieces of reality - with an implicit denial that anything else in reality matters apart from a single tiny sharp picture of a detached fragment.

Because the partial fragment is sharply seen, it is - in practice, although denied in theory - regarded as the only thing known, the only thing of importance. This is normal and usual in recent generations in philosophy, science, in management... in all modern institutions; and indeed the legalism ('Phariseeism') of ancient religions is another expression of the same phenomenon.

(So much 'logic' - and mathematics as applied to actual situations - has exactly this falsehood; the units of reasoning are apparently precise but actual broken fragments of arbitrarily-defined real-world significance.) 

Instead, we can adopt a very simple idea of 'the whole thing' - with a clear accompanying comprehension that it is only a blurry and imprecise vision of totality, with exceptions.

So - in terms of the divine plan and the human conditions; all we need is a simple idea of the nature of the divine (loving, personal) and purpose (to raise us towards divinity) - and an expectations that exact personal individual specifics cannot be clearly defined for all individuals in any comprehensive overview description.

These must necessarily be sorted-out, as best we can, using that inner guidance system which is another factor described in the simple idea. 

[The idea behind this is that of understanding the human condition in relation to matters such as our original creation, being children of God, pre-mortal life, incarnation and the possibility of re-incarnation, death and resurrection, the qualities of eternal life, the levels of consciousness... Any possible schema we may make to describe the actual situation is open to the true criticism that it over-simple. And yet the proper answer is not to increase the complexity of the schema in response to every criticism, to cover every eventuality... but instead to accept that - since we are each individual and unique persons - each destiny and trajectory is also unique and individual - so any possible expressible schema is inadequate to cover all actual and possible eventualities. Reality is both coherent And extraordinarily various!]